Politics

A bill that would prohibit a common abortion procedure after the 11th week of pregnancy is nearing final passage from the Republican-led state legislature.

House Bill 454 would ban dilation and evacuation abortions after the 11th week of pregnancy except in medical emergencies. The procedure involves dilating the cervix and removing the fetus using surgical tools and suction.

The bill passed out of the state Senate on Thursday and now returns to the House, which will consider a change made since it originally passed that chamber earlier this month.

Kate Miller, advocacy director for the ACLU of Kentucky, said lawmakers are interfering with women’s ability to access safe and legal abortions.

“We believe it’s callous to impose one rule on every single woman without knowing the circumstances of her pregnancy,” Miller said during a committee hearing earlier in the day. “Every pregnancy is different and we cannot presume to know all the circumstances a Kentucky woman is facing.”

Similar laws in six other states have drawn legal challenges and have been totally or temporarily blocked by courts, however Mississippi and West Virginia have similar policies on the books.

Marcie Crim, executive director of the Kentucky Health Justice Network, said the proposal wouldn’t survive a legal challenge.

“It’s fairly naïve to believe that six other states could not continue to have it be a permanent law, but somehow Kentucky will find the one judge who is willing to turn their back on the Constitution,” Crim said.

Sen. Whitney Westerfield, a Republican from Hopkinsville, said if the measure becomes law and someone sues over it, the cost of defending the policy would be worthy.

“No one talks about how callous it is for the life that is destroyed,” Westerfield said. “The cost of money is worth challenging precedent.”

The proposal comes after lawmakers passed a handful of anti-abortion laws last year — a ban on abortions after the 19th week in pregnancy, an ultrasound abortion requirement and a policy that puts Planned Parenthood at the back of the line for federal funds that funnel through state government.

The ultrasound abortion law — which requires doctors to describe a pregnant woman’s fetus to her before the procedure — has been challenged in federal court and is currently pending.

Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration has been locked in legal battles with two abortion providers after the state said the facilities weren’t properly licensed. EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville is the only facility in Kentucky currently providing abortions.

This story has been updated.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.